MP Matt Western has accused the Government and local authorities of abandoning care homes long before the coronavirus pandemic.
The Warwick and Leamington MP was responding to news the Government ignored warnings from social care sector about pandemic preparedness two years ago.
It followed national news reports the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services had more than two years ago recommended improvements in care homes to be better prepared for a pandemic were not “picked up” by the Government . They included having more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The Office of National Statistics’ figures on deaths up to May 1, and analysis by the Financial Times, showed there had been a 76 per cent increase in deaths compared to the five-yearly average for the same period in the West Midlands. It equated to around 5,600 extra deaths and was higher than the UK average of 60 per cent.
The Labour MP said: “These latest devastating figures just illustrate the failures in being able to isolate the cases in care homes and the continual failures in providing sufficient protective equipment for the staff treating these residents.
“Shockingly, Public Health England’s guidance in March said that care homes were “very unlikely” to see an outbreak of Covid-19. At the same time, the WHO declared a global pandemic and people were already dying in the UK.
“Locally, Warwickshire County Council were slow to prioritise social care in important Covid-19 response meetings – omitting the issue of social care completely – until I intervened. This shows that the authorities have abandoned care homes from the beginning.
“The Government and authorities have been failing to get PPE to the frontline. The Alzheimer’s Society found 43 per cent of care homes are still not confident of their PPE supply. In the region, there are many businesses that I have been liaising with that are able to produce PPE at scale but have been stonewalled by the Government.
“The answer is obvious – let’s requisition suitable empty properties, like hotels, and utilise the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital, instead of dismantling it, to treat and isolate Covid-19 cases, so they are away from others and will limit transmission, and ramp up British production of PPE.
Warwickshire County Council has defended its efforts in protecting residents in care homes.
Chief executive Monica Fogarty told the Observer: “Warwickshire County Council is working with Coventry City Council, three NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and Public Health England to protect care home residents by providing additional support to care homes across the region during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Alongside CCG care home quality and infection control teams, staff from the council are working hard to coordinate support and mutual aid for care homes as required. This includes supporting with the recruitment and rapid training of care staff for deployment into local care settings, supporting with emergency access to PPE where a care home has limited supply, providing dedicated public health and infection control support to help manage Covid-19 outbreaks and providing financial assistance to homes in relation to any additional costs they incur as a result of the virus.
“The council has established a dedicated website for care providers to streamline communication and ensure providers have access to the latest information and advice.”